Stephen Auth has always had a deep interest in art and the search for beauty. While an undergraduate majoring in history and economics at Princeton, Steve jumped at the opportunity to take as many art history classes as the university had to offer. For the next forty years, Steve’s investment business took him all over the world, and on his travels, one of the first things he did in any city he landed was to visit the art museums. On occasional Friday nights, he and his wife, Evelyn, gave tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to friends who were visiting them in New York City.
In 2002, Steve experienced a serious health event, and received a visit from Fr. John Connor, LC. Upon receiving the Sacrament of the Sick and speaking with Fr. John, Steve resolved that if he survived, he would refocus the use of his talents for the glory of God. It was during one of his and Evelyn’s tours of the MET that Steve began to understand one of the ways in which God was calling him to redirect his talents toward the good of the Church. Standing before a painting by Rembrandt called “The Toilet of Bathsheba,” which Steve had seen many times before, he suddenly saw the piece with a new perspective, with the eyes of faith. For Steve, it was like a light came on, and he and Evelyn began to reapproach the art with which they had become so familiar over the years with this new spiritual perspective, one that posits that all artists, in striving for beauty, are, ultimately, seeking God.
In 2010, Steve and Evelyn reconfigured their MET tour, and enlisted Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, to help. “When we redid the entire tour with the presumption that all of us are seeking God, a gripping narrative began to emerge over 5000 years, a salvation history,” says Steve. “The tour then became a pilgrimage, a journey of pursuing God through beauty, and in the moments where you begin to see the artist come close to finding God, and the moments when the artist loses him, you’re feeling your own self being pulled toward God.”
Soon, Steve and Evelyn were giving several MET tours a year, and the list of those wishing to join in was getting longer. Friends began urging the couple to convert their unique pilgrimage experience to the form of a book so that more people could take advantage of this tour through history and through art. When the pandemic provided Steve with unexpected free time in his social calendar, he did just that, and his book Pilgrimage Through the Museum: Man’s Search for God Through Art and Time has recently been published by Sophia Institute Press.
Pilgrimage Through the Museum is a spiritual tour through the MET, working from the presumption that all art is a search for the creator, who is beauty itself. The tour travels from Ancient Egypt, through Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe, to the rise of atheism in the early 1800s and beyond, exploring the common themes that start to emerge through 5000 years of history. Above all, the book is a story of humankind’s search for the creator of beauty, and what happens when we lose track of the very thing that we are seeking.
But for Steve, the MET tours, the book, and the art itself, provides more than a history or a narrative to passively observe – art can also be a means of evangelization, through which true conversion can take place. And Steve is no stranger to evangelization; he is the author of The Missionary of Wall Street: From Managing Money to Saving Souls on the Streets of New York, which tells the story of his radical mission of evangelization in downtown Manhattan. For Steve, Pilgrimage Through the Museum, and art itself, is just another way to bring others into an encounter with God’s love and mercy:
“Art is a form of evangelization for a culture that doesn’t want to talk about God. It’s a lighter approach, a common ground to meet people at, because everyone appreciates art, everyone appreciates beauty. The book itself is a form of evangelization, a gentle invitation to think about what the art is really about, which is God, and our search for him through beauty.”
Steve has spent his career on Wall Street, and has worked for Federated Investors for over 20 years; he currently serves as executive vice president and a chief investment officer of Federated Global Equities. As well, both Steve and Evelyn are deeply involved in their Regnum Christi vocation. Steve is on the board of Lumen Institute, and was instrumental in starting Lumen teams in Manhattan, New Jersey, and Naples, Florida. Evelyn is on the Board of Directors at both Divine Mercy University and Catholic World Mission. They have also participated in missions in Mexico, and have led the New York City street mission for 10 years.
Steve and Evelyn will be touring the country speaking about Pilgrimage Through the Museum: to schedule a book signing or a talk on art and spirituality in your section, contact Mary Soressi at Maryann.Soressi@federatedhermes.com. You can order Pilgrimage to the Museum, for yourself or as a Regnum Christi team book study, as well as Steve’s first book Missionary of Wall Street, through Sophia Press Institute. Pilgrimage Through the Museum is also available to purchase at the MET gift shop. The book is co-authored by Evelyn Auth and Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, and all author proceeds of the book go towards the formation of Legionary priests at the seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut.